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A review of "Bachelorette" (2012)

Bachelorette confuses me.  The plot is pretty simple - three self-centered women accidentally destroy their overweight friend's dress the night before her wedding and go on a raunchy, madcap night of misadventures to fix it.  But the tone is all over the map and it has muddled (at best) morals.

You almost could call it The Hangover, but with ladies.  But that's not quite it - the movie never gets to Hangover levels of filth and there's way more soul-searching.  So maybe it's like a Bridesmaids-light.  But that doesn't work because it's so grim and the characters are so shallow.  And sure, you can try the ol', "It's a totally unique vision that can't be compared to existing films!!!!" argument, but even then, I just plain don't see it.

It's too mild to be raunchy, too loving to be dark, too caustic to be affirming.  It undercuts its own humor time and time again by inserting characters or lines who offset any horrible things that may be going on, and yet those horrible things are never excused or mitigated.

What confuses me most, though, is what messages I'm supposed to take away about gender.  The movie was written and directed by a woman, so I can't accuse it of being a poorly-conceived male take on female issues.  (That's the complaint I save for my own work, thank you very much.)  Not being able to use that excuse puts me in a weird place.

This is a movie about four female protagonists, one of which is a relatable and affable bride and three of which are horrible, horrible subhumans.  After the three subhumans wreck the wedding dress, they have a moment where it seems like they might understand how horrible they are.  You expect the rest of the movie to be their path to redemption, through which they change and learn and become better people.

But that's not what happens.  At like 40 minutes in they each meet a male foil who's basically their perfect match.  The rest of the movie is them each having a burgeoning romantic relationship, and those relationships then become either contrivances or levers by which all forward momentum is accomplished.  At no time do they have any introspective moments where they have to use their own capabilities to save the day, nor do they ever eat any crow or make apologies for their rotten behavior.  They just meet men who are oh-so-dreamy and who can set them straight.

Actually, that's even giving the movie too much credit.  What specifically happens is this:

Lizzy Caplan's character: Steals her ex-boyfriend's wallet and uses his cash for various odds and ends, then he forgives her and takes her to his mom's house so she can fix the dress.  Has sex with her ex after he refuses to accept "no" for an answer, then admits that she still loves him and misses the stability he brought her.  Sometimes ladies are just cuh-razeee, aren't they fellas?  Well, guess that's part of the package!  Take me and you get my quirks!  Whoopsie!  (She also talks about blowjobs a ton because that's very funny.)

Isla Fisher's character: Acts really vapid, almost sleeps with a pretty cool dude who hooked her up with free pot.  Gets bummed when he is offended that she can't remember his name and leaves.  Takes his Xanax and overdoses on it.  Is revived in large part because the cool dude's concern for her wellbeing leads to some other contrivances, and is relieved when cool dude is still interested in her, but never actually calls him by his name.  Ha ha ha, what's a "character?"  You're silly.  Buy me a drink?

Kirsten Dunst's character: Is a completely miserable person, acts arrogant and mean to everyone.  Resents the bride for getting married before her.  Has sex with a misogynist in a restroom, which is apparently just what she needed in order to think straight again.  Hangs out with the bride who absolutely adores her and says that Dunst is the only person in her life who gave her stability and motivation to move on past hardships.  Never has to apologize for anything, never comes clean about her bullshit, and is pretty much forgotten about by the end credits.

I just don't get it.  Was the message supposed to be that women are all manic-depressive babies who can't possibly solve their problems unless a man takes an interest in them?

You know how people sometimes complain about quirky indie comedies like Garden State or (500) Days of Summer about self-loathing men who don't get their lives in order until they meet their dream girl?  The complaint is never, "Oh, this would be perfect if only you swapped the genders around."  The complaint is more like, "I hate these fucking people and don't want to spend that much time with them."

Bachelorette is extremely lucky to have the cast that it does.  All the performers are great and typically much more likable than this.  They all do a fantastic job of cushioning the dirt, so what you end up with is simply an unfunny movie rather than a reprehensible one.

Which leads me to one positive thing that I'll say, which is that this movie showed me the better side of Rebel Wilson.  I've never known quite what to make of her - I know there's a lot of dudes on the Internet who hate her and aren't shy of expressing it, but I was never that critical.  I'd always been of the mindset that she's a one-trick pony that's less and less funny each time I see her.

Bachelorette changed my mind because Wilson has a chance to play a straight role for once, and she's very charming in that capacity.  It reminds me of how I went from being ambivalent about Melissa McCarthy to totally loving her after I saw St. Vincent.  So, chalk me up under the "yeah, she's good" column.